Author Judy Fong Bates (Michael Bates)
Why do I write? Many writers are asked that question. I have no definitive answer, except to say, that's what I do. I can, perhaps, offer a few insights.
I have always felt that were I not an immigrant, I would probably not write. This is not to say that I want to write only about the immigrant experience, but rather, the immigrant experience gave me my voice. Although I did not realize it at the time, (I was too busy trying to fit in,) I spent my childhood in Canada as an outsider. My family was quiet and law-abiding; I was a good student and had friends. Nevertheless, we were separated by race, language, culture and poverty from the mainstream society of our small town. For much of my childhood I was lulled into thinking that I was "one of the gang." When moments of racism broke the surface and struck, the hurt was deep and lasting, and reminded me once again that I did not completely belong.
And yet it is this outsider status that has made me a writer. At the same time, paradoxically, it suppressed my writing. I grew up in a culture where all the "important" books were written in English by people who were white. Who would want to hear my stories? It took me a long time to realize that I do indeed have stories to tell, ones that are meaningful, and I hope strike a universal chord.
Judy Fong Bates - reading and signing The Year of Finding Memory: A Memoir Tuesday May 17, 2011 7:00 p.m. Winnipeg - Grant Park in the Atrium as part of Asian Heritage Month.
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